Interview with Komal Samaroo

Komal Samaroo is executive chairman of Demerara Distillers.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in British Guiana (now Guyana), five miles east of the capital city, Georgetown. Since I became involved in the international marketing activities of our company in the late 1980s, I have travelled quite extensively in the Caribbean, South, Central and North America, Europe and Asia (mainly India and China).

What is your educational background?

In high school I was a natural science student, but after graduating I switched to business for the job opportunities. Based on advice at that time I studied for the ACIS exams on a part-time basis. I completed the exams in 1974.

Why did you choose a career in accountancy?

In 1975 I discovered that opportunities for chartered secretaries were limited, and my employers preferred me to remain in accounting. Consequently, I applied for exemptions on the basis of my ACIS qualification and was exempted from the first two parts.

How did you end up choosing ACCA as your qualification?

The senior finance executive in my company was an ACCA member, and the accounting and auditing profession in Guyana was dominated by ACCA members. The association’s qualification was much sought after at the time as it was a very cost-effective option to pursue a professional qualification.

Describe your current role

My job as executive chairman of Demerara Distillers, a leading Caribbean rum producer and the home of El Dorado Rum, requires me to plan and overlook the execution of the growth strategy, organisational development and governance. I focus on results and spend considerable time keeping myself informed of trends and developments in the industry and in business.

How has ACCA supported your career?

The subjects studied in pursuing the ACCA qualifications were very relevant to the work I was involved in at the time. The subject I studied gave me a strong conceptual framework and understanding to contribute to business development, and I became quite actively involved in planning the growth and expansion of the company. When I got involved in market development, for example, I found my knowledge of accounting and finance gave me a distinct advantage among my colleagues as we developed strategies to optimise resource usage.

Did you encounter any obstacles while studying ACCA?

I began studying ACCA from a strong foundation having already completed the ACIS examinations. I was successful at first attempt in every ACCA paper. My employers sent me to the UK where I did a revision course and wrote the final examination in 1977 to complete the exams.

What advice would you give to others considering a career in accountancy through ACCA?

My advice to students is that they should look at pursuing the ACCA qualification not as an end in itself but as the means to an end. The accounting profession offers great career opportunities for ACCA graduates, but there are even greater opportunities in other areas of business if the knowledge gained while studying ACCA is applied in a wider management context.

What advice would you give to students combining ACCA studies with a demanding job?

I did most of my studies on a part-time basis while working full time in very demanding jobs. The secret is to try to get a job that is aligned with the area of your studies. In this way, the job provides a practical environment in which you can apply the theories that you are studying. With this approach, when you complete your exams you will progress much quicker in your job than someone who studied full time. In my case, within three years of completion of the ACCA examination I became finance director of the company and within another five years the managing director.

Where would you like to be professionally in the next three to five years?

Most likely, I will retire from full-time work but keep myself occupied providing business advisory services, drawing on my experience over the years.

Can you share a quote that inspires you?

‘Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.’ Indian poet Rabindranauth Tagore.


Komal Samaroo

What piece of music best describes your work ethic?

‘My Way’ by Elvis Presley.

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